Sanctuary Art School and Glass Studio
BY URSULA BRANTLEY
Long before there was a term for it, humans have found solace in artistic expression. For centuries, people have found themselves and lighted their paths through music, artwork, words, and the stage. The arts have the power to unify people from all walks of life.
Glass blowing and sculpting requires great patience and intimacy that allows the artist to slow down and really become one with their artwork. In 2016, Eric Hess and his partner Michelle Pennington had a sit down with the Shreveport Regional Arts Council about bringing a glass studio to the Shreveport/ Bossier area and soon, Sanctuary Glass Studio was a reality. What started as a small group dedicated to making a change has grown to a thriving 501(c) (3) non-profit organization that touches thousands of lives each year.
The dream of starting a glass studio came to Hess after realizing how glass can be utilized to heal and improve people’s lives. “The more you get into it, the more you want to do,” he said. The Sanctuary Glass Studio offers create-your-own glass opportunities and the opportunity to hold group social or business events, which help fund the Sanctuary Art School.
The mission of Sanctuary Art School is to bring the glass arts into the underserved communities. It provides arts projects and classes for the elderly, veterans, disabled, children and families that are economically challenged. The school provides a means to access practice in the glass arts, making glass arts available to artists, students, and anyone wanting to utilize glass as an art form for a sliding scale fee. During the year the school offers classes in glass blowing, kiln casting, sand casting, glass mosaics, and hot sculpting. The name choice of “sanctuary” reflects its purpose: to be a safe place that’s fully accessible for all people regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, social/financial status, disability, or anything else.
Outreach is an important goal, and the first program offered by Sanctuary was Glass Warriors. This program gives veterans with PTSD the opportunity to work through their struggles by focusing their attention on something other than their many mountains. Every eight weeks, two veterans are taught the art of glass and are given the opportunity to use their hands to create beauty. The delicacy of glassblowing encourages a sense of calm that is vital to battling PTSD.
Sanctuary collaborates with local organizations to provide programs for those who wouldn’t normally have access to the arts. For example, once a month Volunteers of America and Shriner’s Hospital bring in children for a day of fun to create glass artwork. These disadvantaged children and children fighting medical battles are free to express and explore in a healthy environment. Sanctuary also partners with Louisiana Association for the Blind and local nursing homes so residents may create mosaics and paint glass.
As Sanctuary looks to its future, the plan is to continue to expand to touch more lives. They are working on offering more mediums for artists and art enthusiasts such as painting, drawing, wood, iron, textiles, and photography.
Sanctuary Arts School and Glass Studio is also spearheading a statewide initiative to save the empty B’Nai Zion Temple in Downtown Shreveport, one of the most important architecturally significant historic buildings in the city. The synagogue will give life to a 15,000 square foot glass studio that will be open to everyone in the community. The move to the Temple will ensure that generations of artists to come will have a place nearby to learn and create.
IMAGES: SANCTUARY ART SCHOOL AND GLASS STUDIO